Wednesday, 4 February 2015

4 Pillars of Success

After 12 years in pro football academies and many years working across Europe with leading clubs 1st teams assisting in preparing for football matches. I now believe I'm ready to take control of a football club. I’ve managed and coached at senior level in non-league and worked with senior professionals throughout my career. I’ve seen and worked with some great high profile coaches and I’ve also seen and experienced things that I don’t agree with. Using all that experience I have developed my own ‘4 Pillars of Success’ that I will put into place at a club. I don’t mind sharing this as if people decide to copy or emulate this theory, then great. That’s what football should be about and in fact, the more clubs that adopted it would mean we would improve our national side’s chances of winning a major tournament. 
I also have the self confidence that I’m the best person to demonstrate how this would work.

Firstly, we would define success. What do you want? I think for clubs, across the top 6 divisions the definition of success is similar. Stability, Strategy and Success. For some clubs the first priority is to avoid relegation. This of course could have huge financial implications which leave clubs vulnerable. That’s why a longer term strategy is so important. To find a formula for developing players for the 1st team or to generate revenue for the club. Lastly, why are we all in football? What do fans want? It’s refreshing to hear Louis Van Gaal openly say he wants to win the FA Cup so early into the tournament and despite seeing his team’s yoyo performances. Yes, it’s a balance. Premier League survival is so important to the overall survival of a club. But so is making history and giving fans some reward for their loyalty. After all, in all clubs it is typically the same faces of generations of families that sit in the stands whilst the pitch and boardroom sees constant turnover of people. Football is perhaps the only entertainment industry where despite the performance, people feel compelled to spend their hard earned money & keep tuning in. It’s a liberty to pick up a salary and disregard that loyalty.

 The 4 Pillars of Success

How will we achieve our targets?
In order to achieve our clubs goals we will put the four pillars in the ground. This is devised by me and not copied from another club or FA handbook. 

Philosophy + Professionalism + Players + People

My system is one devised to win and earn points. Having spent years in youth academies and completing courses like Youth Modules I am fully aware of the dangers in youth football when coaches have a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. However, from scholar years upwards players need to learn the game and know how to win football matches. For the sake of those players I would need to have an influence on those years in (PDF) Professional Development Phase. In the modern game under EPPP these years of 16+ to U21’s falls under the guidance of the Academy manager. In some cases I believe this can be dangerous. I’ve seen these years playing a style of football consistent with ‘development’ in unrealistic settings and scenarios. This is not beneficial to the player. That player will soon be looking for a further contract and possibly somewhere else in the football pyramid. But too many are now coming out of the system unarmed for professional football and are struggling at even Step 7/8 of the pyramid. Football in England has become a place where losing seems to be a positive example of how good I am as a coach, it shows I put development first. This isn’t grass roots mini-soccer. Ask the players. They are instinctively competitive, they want to win. But were trying to convince them that its ok to lose. Then later they are released because the first team manager is not ‘having them’. Get real, win games. But play fair and be sporting win or lose. What’s wrong with that?
In my club the players would develop a winning mentality from scholar years upwards. That doesn’t have to be detrimental to a style of play or development. I would ensure I know every player from scholars and 21’s and pledge to have at least two players in my squad from the development phase in EVERY game. If I find that difficult then I will know that recruitment or coaching is not working and changes are needed. But I would work with the coaches and scouts to ensure we are able to stick to the pledge.
I would also request that scholars and 21’s are picked according to their performance levels and application, as well as sticking to the clubs playing philosophy. Out of favour players will have recorded regular reviews to ensure they understand where they need to improve and are treated fairly. But I also think its fair that if one players works harder than another, he should see that he is rewarded. Scholars and 21’s should prepare for games exactly as the senior team do.

Whilst we will have set systems/formations of play, we should be adaptable. Adaptable to situations, to opposition, to match dynamics. Football in my view is much simpler than many coaches would have us believe. It’s a game of attacking and defending dependant on who has the ball. We will understand our roles in both situations.
Clever game management. We cannot and will not have one style of play. In match preparation playing round mannequins dictating our style is great. But in the real world, mannequins come to life and try to stop you. Yes, hard work is the minimum requirement. But that’s the same message in every opposition dressing room. We have to understand working Smart.
We will have a balanced team to cope with all demands defensively as well as affective attacking options and threats. We want entertaining attacking football. But also understand risk v reward & purposeful possession.

I have worked with top premiership football clubs and in Europe providing match preparation services. Our players will be well organised and be totally clear about our set up and organisation for games. We recognise the value of finding small margins of planning that can provide large gains. We will improve match preparation by taking scouting reports and turning them into vastly improved game plans with professional communication.
I have worked within top environment’s and believe that certain modern approaches within Sports Science can assist with performance which we would embrace.
      We will have excellent standards from everybody with clearly defined boundaries. This includes all our conduct and how we look and feel. Everything about how we look and feel should look like we mean serious business like an F1 winning team.

We want players to be happy and confident. It is my belief that you can still be ultra-professional with a smile on your face. This is especially crucial in sport. Of course results breed a happy camp and we want to create that environment. Players should feel desperate to get to training.
High tempo, enjoyable and engaging training. This will keep players interested and give them confidence that we are improving them and arming them with the tools for the task at hand.
We will create a sense of loyalty, trust and dependency. In some cases this of course means the bearer of bad news for players but we will always be honest and fair with them and hold regular player meetings to discuss their development.
We want to field a balanced team and our recruitment would reflect that. Players will understand the minimum is maximum theory. We should not have to ask for hard work in and out of possession. Players not fitting that mould will not survive in our club.

As an individual I am very much anti ego and feel that everyone has to have a can-do, team ethos where we are all willing to role our sleeves up to get the task done. We would embrace staff and make everyone feel appreciated and valued. This ethos has been witnessed personally at clubs at the top of the Premier League and can have a huge impact on the pitch where it is felt that everyone is in it together. Of course, some things cannot be disclosed for various reasons but even with that in mind I would want a no-nonsense transparent environment with an upside down management structure. This may also include embracing commercial, fans and community projects. In business, the bank or the accountant don’t pay salaries. The customers do. That’s why they are the most important person in the business. In Football, if you’re in youth football the players are the most important people. Not the staff! In the rest of the club, the fan is the most important person and we want them to be desperate to get to our next show.

Tony McCool

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